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226             A SEARCH IN SECRET EGYPT
troubles of life with an airy philosophy of "Maleesh!" (Never mind!) which was really captivating.
And presently the huge silvery pylon of Ptolemy stood at the end of my path, like a spectral sentinel of the great temple; its square top towered up into the indigo sky.
It was not ready to receive me, however, for a barred grille had been placed across it. I woke the sleeping watchman who jumped, startled, out of his narrow cot; then stood rubbing his sleepy eyes in the bright glare of my electric torch. After he had unlocked the small modern gate, I paid him well for thus disturbing his rest, and he let me pass in to wander alone. I crossed the Forecourt and sat down for a few minutes amone the mass of tumbled sandstone blocks which once formed the lofty pylon dividing the Forecourt from the Great Hypostyle Hall, and meditated on the fallen grandeur of this monument to Amen-Ra. Soon I was moving amid the stately columns and majestic ruins of the Great Hall itself. The moonlight dappled the shafts that rose up by my side and flung their deep black shadows on the ground, so that carven hieroglyphs appeared at one moment in gleaming relief, and the next as suddenly disappeared into the night. I switched off the light of my own torch, save where I was uncertain of my path, that it might not play the rival to the mellower illumination of the moon, which turned the entire temple into a place met with in dreams alone. The Obelisk of Queen Hatshepsu suddenly confronted me: it looked like a splendid silver needle.
And as I went slowly onwards through the faintly relieved darkness into the covered sanctuaries that lay beyond the impressive colonnades of the Hypostyle Hall, there came a dim sense that my solitude was no longer solitude. Yet these stupendous halls and smaller shrines had not been crowded with worshippers for fifteen hundred years at least; the mutilated stone gods had silently suffered their long desertion for no less a time; and I knew of no one in modern Egypt who could be accused of having reverted to the ancient faith. Why, then, did I fee/ the companionship of living people all around me in this time-worn place, which was as silent as the grave itself? I let my torch play its beam around me; it merely rested in turn on stone ruins and broken floors, or flashed chiselled pictures and inscribed hieroglyphs into fleeting life, but revealed never a sign of human forms.
I could not rid myself of this oppressive feeling as I walked